Monday, March 29, 2010

Flags at half-staff, more deploying to Iraq

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has issued an executive order for flags to be flown at half-staff today:

Flags at Wisconsin National Guard armories, air bases and other facilities across the state will fly at half-staff Monday, March 29 in honor of U.S. Army Spc. Robert Rieckhoff, 26, of Kenosha, who was killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq on Thursday, March 18. The Guard will render these honors in accordance with an executive order issued by Gov. Jim Doyle.
EXECUTIVE ORDER # 311 reads:
Relating to a Proclamation that the Flag of the United States and the Flag of the State of Wisconsin be Flown at Half-Staff as a Mark of Respect for Specialist Robert Rieckhoff of the United States Army Who Lost His Life While Serving His Country in Operation Iraqi Freedom
WHEREAS, on March 18, 2010, Specialist Robert Rieckhoff, who was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, New York, died while serving his country in Iraq; and
WHEREAS, Specialist Robert Rieckhoff provided faithful and honorable service to the people of the State of Wisconsin and the people of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the people of Wisconsin mourn the death of Specialist Robert Rieckhoff; and
WHEREAS, Specialist Robert Rieckhoff will be laid to rest on Monday, March 29, 2010;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JIM DOYLE, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, by the authority vested in me by Federal and State law, do hereby order that the flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Wisconsin shall be flown at half-staff at all buildings, grounds and military installations of the State of Wisconsin equipped with such flags beginning at sunrise on Monday, March 29, 2010, and ending at sundown on that date.
All Wisconsin state government facilities are covered by the governor's order and a 2007 amendment to the U.S. Flag Code now requires all federal facilities in Wisconsin to comply. Other government agencies, businesses and private residences with flagpoles may also honor Spc. Robert Rieckhoff by lowering their U.S. and Wisconsin state flags to half-staff during the daylight hours on March 29.

Yesterday on Weekend Edition (NPR -- link has audio and text), Chuck Quirmbach filed a report on Robert Rieckhoff:

CHUCK QUIRMBACH: After some part-time jobs in Kenosha and a stint in the Reserves after high school, Robert Reickhoff enlisted in the Army. His relatives say he was a friendly guy and could've joined the family lawnmower repair business, but instead entered the service because it offered him a way to stay out of trouble in Kenosha and to support his family. When he was killed last week at the age of 26, Robert Reickhoff was divorced with two children, ages four and eight. It was as a child that his grandmother, Judith Nelson, noticed his intense focus. She called him Bubba and he called her Mimi. And she remembers he would come to her after hours of playing the Super Mario video game.

Ms. JUDITH NELSON: His thumbs got so sore from pushing them buttons. He'd come, Mimi, Mimi. And I'd say, oh, honey. And I'd wrap his little thumbs up and he'd go right back to it.

QUIRMBACH: Nelson helped raise Reickhoff, watching with pride as he made friends at either his home in Tennessee or in this blue-collar neighborhood on Kenosha's west side.

Meanwhile KOLD reports that almost 200 members of the Arizona Army National Guard's "Tuscon based 2220th Transportation Company" have a send-off ceremony this afternoon at Reid Park before they head to Indiana for additional training and then onto Iraq.

Iraq War veteran Nick Miano (Technican) explores the media's walk-away from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars:

This leads to questions about what the media's purpose is in covering these wars. Is it to help the public form an informed opinion? Is it to generate some kind emotional response? Or is it merely to report statistical information and indulge the public with pictures of violence, albeit heavily censored violence? These wars, much like Vietnam, have been heavily televised (until recently). The difference however, is that the endless stream of violent imagery coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan has only desensitized a public with little or no vested interest in the conflicts; while the nightly televising of the Vietnam War influenced a public who had a direct interest in the events of the war.
Unless someone has such a direct interest in the subject, how can we expect that the information being given to him or her will carry any real meaning? The daily reporting of the number of war dead, whether they are civilians, soldiers or insurgents, is merely an abstraction of the real suffering that occurs. As an abstraction, this information is ultimately meaningless for anyone who digests it unless he or she is directly involved in the conflicts. For the larger public, war coverage is just an endless stream of noise that the mind eventually tunes out. The concept of war itself is an abstraction to those who have no emotional investment in it. This is not an altogether negative idea; I would love to eventually live in a society in which the word "war" is completely eradicated from the lexicon. However, in the meantime this lack of real interest in the subject only leads to a sense of ambivalence about the circumstances that our soldiers, Iraqi and Afghani civilians, and "enemy" combatants find themselves in.

Does the media not cover Iraq? That's sarcasm. We noted NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams in Friday's snapshot because Williams and Richard Engel covered Iraq.

Brian Williams: Richard, you were saying earlier in the newsroom today, people rooting for the US-side of the equation would be dancing in the streets of Baghdad at this result. What did you mean by that?

Richard Engel: This was an incredibly significant day, perhaps the most important one in the last several years in Iraq. Ayad Allawi won these elections. Now he is a Shi'ite, he's secular and he's pro-American and he's very anti-Iran. The current government in Iraq right now is a religious state that leans toward Iran. So if Ayad Allawi can hold on to this position, that he gained today, he still has to form a government and face off challenges by the current prime minister, then we could see a major change in direction in Iraq.

Brian Williams: Dancing in the street with those cement blast walls in the background, kind of a reminder that it's still a dangerous state.

We didn't have space to note the others and they weren't worth noting. But an e-mail informs that the link in that snapshot is messed up (goes to CNN, not the home page for Nightly News) so we'll use that and the issues Miano's raising as an excuse to revist. Engel and Williams continued for a bit more than the excerpt above. What did the others do?

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer? Sawyer was off. David Muir and his beautician filled in. The hair looked wonderful but the news suffered. Half-way into the program, Muir and that head of hair finally got around to Iraq and . . . stayed on it for 15 seconds. You get the idea Muir spends more time than that each hour dragging a brush through those shimmering highlights. Harry Smith will never have Muir's hair problems and possibly that's why he was able to offer his bit much earlier in the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric when he filled in for Katie on Friday. Along with getting to the story sooner, he also offered a few second more -- fourteen seconds more. CBS gave it 29 seconds.

Brian Williams was the only anchor not on vacation Friday and Nightly News was the only commercial network evening news show that treated Iraq as significant. No surprise, PBS' NewsHour devoted much more time to the issue click here for video, audio and transcript options for the Iraq segments by Jeffrey Brown -- first segment is one minute and forty-five seconds, second segment (discussion with Ryan Crocker -- former US Ambassador to Iraq -- and Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group) is nearly nine minutes. From the second segment, we'll note this:

JEFFREY BROWN: But -- but, staying with you, how hard will this process be? And what becomes the role of key other players, like Muqtada al-Sadr, in helping to either join or not join one of these groups and therefore forming a coalition, forming a government?

RYAN CROCKER: It -- it is going to be difficult. There is no combination of coalitions right now that I would rule out. And there's also no assurance that the coalitions that came together for the elections will stay together for the process of government formation. We may see the Sadrists, for example, split with the rest of the Iraqi National Alliance, as they seek advantage in the -- in these politics of government formation. So, just about everything and everybody is on the table. The small parties may hold the critical weight in determining who gets to be prime minister. And, again, it's helpful to remember what happened in 2006, when the man who emerged at the end of the day was on no one's lips as the process started. That man, of course, was Nouri al-Maliki.

JEFFREY BROWN: But, Joost Hiltermann, is -- is renewed sectarian violence on the table or a possibility here?

JOOST HILTERMANN: Well, I don't think it's safe to rule it out, but I hope not. And it doesn't look like it right now. But, if Prime Minister Maliki rejects the results, and decides to act on it, we could get in a dangerous situation. Likewise, if -- if Prime Minister Allawi -- not Prime Minister -- former Prime Minister Allawi seeks to form a government, and fails to bring together a ruling coalition, and has to give over that -- that role to someone else, say Mr. Maliki, and he doesn't accept those results, you could see a reversion to violence. But, so far, the pressure on all the actors has been considerable from both the United Nations and the United States, and, in fact, from political opponents on both, especially on Maliki right now, to play by the rules of the game.

The Bat Segundo Show has new episodes online:

Greetings from The Bat Segundo Show! The cultural radio program, featuring unusual and insightful interviews with today's authors, filmmakers, and cultural voices, has released five new installments for your listening pleasure.

These new episodes (in no particular order) include a discussion of girl power, music, and women's issues with author Marisa Meltzer (#328), a lively one hour debate on fiction and literature with controversial Reality Hunger author David Shields (#326), in which Shields manages to get in swipes at Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Infinite Jest, and The Corrections, a taut talk on the future of libraries (both digital and analog) with Marilyn Johnson (#324), a consideration of prose, weapons, elevator pitches, and unusual milk bars with satirist Sam Lipsyte (#325), and a conversation with Chang-Rae Lee (#329), in which he explains why it takes him so long to craft the perfect sentence.

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Here are links to the new shows:

SHOW #324 -- Marilyn Johnson (40:49)

Direct Link to Show:

Five Second Excerpt: "This closing is particularly ironic, given that, in 1997, more than a million dollars were poured into this room to refurbish it."

* * *

SHOW #325 -- Sam Lipsyte (35:04)

Direct Link to Show:

Five Second Excerpt: " I was screaming cryptic lines that couldn’t be heard because the guitars were too loud."

* * *

SHOW #326 -- David Shields (1:00:49)

Direct Link to Show:

Five Second Excerpt: "My god! Talk about a formulaic text with these little plot points."

* * *

SHOW #327 -- Chang-Rae Lee (29:00)

Direct Link to Show:

Five Second Excerpt: "I’m not the sort of writer who can jam out 2,000 words and then go back and fix them and be happy with it."

* * *

SHOW #328 -- Marisa Meltzer (32:50)

Direct Link to Show:

Five Second Excerpt: "Must one attempt to play this game of leapfrog?"

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Thanks again for listening!

The Bat Segundo Crew

Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Attitudes of Gratitude" went up last night.

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